The RSS “participated in the freedom movement”. “No RSS literature discriminates against the minorities.” RSS projects “never discriminate on the basis of caste or religion.” “RSS never indulged in anarchy”… and so on. Welcome to the RSS post-truth narrative, as enunciated by Rakesh Sinha in his article titled ‘Of swayamsevaks and intellectuals’ (IE, March 24).
For Sinha, facts do not count, personal belief does. So, if he believes so, it must be so and anyone who disagrees must be influenced by communists. In his article, Sinha refers to “archival evidence” of the RSS’s role in the freedom movement. Now, this is a self-goal, one that RSS intellectuals such as he must avoid. It conjures up the image of RSS bhakts having to search dusty files to find their heroes and failing to, even as a footnote in India’s glorious struggle for her freedom.
But, on the other hand, you don’t need to search too hard to find how the Hindutva icon, V.D. Savarkar, cringed before the British, apparently begging for forgiveness from his cell in the Andamans, describing himself as “the prodigal son”. Savarkar wrote, “where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the government”. It is this person whom RSS bhakts glorify, insulting the memory of our martyrs, naming the Andaman jail after him.
The contemporary RSS project, of a chauvinistic, aggressive Hindutva nationalism, requires a whitewashing of historical facts; that is what people like Sinha are expected to do.
As for discrimination, the BJP itself is an RSS project. Is it not blatant discrimination, prejudice and bigotry that while a range of criminals got BJP tickets in Uttar Pradesh, the party could not find a single Muslim candidate to put up? In the years of India’s independence, in every single communal conflagration towards which commissions of inquiry have been set up, the hand of the RSS has been clearly identified; a day after Sinha’s piece appeared, two RSS pracharaks were convicted in terror cases.
But, apart from the contempt for objective facts regarding the communal nature of RSS ideology and practice, more ominous is the stated aim that “while the RSS dominates India’s politics, its domination in the country’s intellectual discourse is awaited”. For Sinha, the “challenge is to decolonise the Indian mind and to revitalise Indian culture”.
In reality, it is precisely Indian culture, pluralist, multi-dimensional, diverse, of many streams and colours, that is sought to be replaced by the Hindutva definition of “culture”. Here is how Golwalkar, the “Guru” of the RSS and of the present prime minister, described it: “In this country Hindustan, the Hindu race, with its Hindu religion, Hindu culture and Hindu language (the natural family of Sanskrit and her offspring) complete the nation concept… All those not belonging to the national, that is, the Hindu race, religion, culture and language, naturally fall out of the pale of real national life.”
There are several aspects to the “revitalisation” project which are unfolding in a more accelerated manner. The first is the take-over of institutions of higher education and other autonomous bodies through the appointment of persons whose main credentials are their allegiance to the RSS. The hit list has targeted all the important universities and colleges. It is now common for VCs and other office-bearers to openly flaunt their proximity to the RSS as a means of getting ahead; this includes a tweet from the JNU VC welcoming the verdict of the UP elections, or, the head of the ICCR describing Narendra Modi as an incarnation of God.
The second aspect of the “decolonising the Indian mind” project is the syllabus for school children. Dinanath Batra’s atrocious textbooks are now being taught in schools across BJP-governed states. The books include such gems as the example that the birth of 100 Kauravas in the Mahabharata, from one egg of Gandhari, was an example of stem cell research in India.
Science and rationalism are anathema to the RSS. Ironically, on the day Sinha’s piece appeared, The Indian Express published the outrage expressed by Nobel Laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan at his alma mater, Maharaja Sayajirao University in Vadodara, bringing India’s real, internationally acclaimed scientific achievements “into disrepute” by making absurd claims based on mythical figures.
The third is the open hostility, victimisation, hounding, bullying of intellectuals who refuse to acquiesce to the divisive, hate-filled agenda of the RSS. Where such intimidation fails, the ABVP, the student wing of the RSS, is called into action, as it has been, most recently, in Ramjas College of Delhi University.
In the coming days, we can expect more such fascistic methods, concealed under the guise of “revitalisation”. We can also expect wider resistance.